Monthly Archives: June 2012

Landmark Court Decision Promotes a Carbon-Smart Economy: Another Look at This Week’s Ruling on Climate Protections

By now, you’ve surely heard all about this week’s historic court decision upholding EPA’s efforts to reduce climate pollution.

I hope you also had a chance to read my colleague Steve Hamburg’s post about how the decision reaffirmed the value of science in public policy.

There is one aspect of the court’s ruling that we haven’t discussed much yet. That’s the Tailoring Rule, and its benefits for a carbon-smart economy.

The Tailoring Rule was one of the four measures that were challenged in court. (None of the four challenges prevailed. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit dismissed the lawsuits against the Tailoring Rule).

The Tailoring Rule ensures smooth implementation of carbon regulations for large new (and modified) power plants and industrial sources, while excluding small emitters from regulations.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is phasing-in requirements for use of the best available cost-effective pollution controls — starting with new, large industrial emitters like power plants — while shielding smaller emitters.

Many of the petitioners in the cases that were decided this week (National Association of Manufacturers, the Utility Air Regulatory Group, and others) sought to stop EPA from using that approach.

Specifically, they tried to prevent EPA from applying the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) program to greenhouse gases.

(Ironically, their efforts actually put at risk the very regulatory protections intended to ensure that small sources of pollution were not inappropriately covered by greenhouse gas regulations.)

 Since the 1970’s, the PSD program has required our biggest polluters to use the best technologies to ensure that air quality is maintained. And the PSD program has already brought a reduction of greenhouse gas pollution.

EPA has issued more than 30 permits to large sources of industrial pollution across the country since January 2, 2011. These permits cover a range of industries, from biomass refineries to cement manufacturing facilities to coal-fired electricity generating stations.

In the permits issued to date, industry and permitting authorities have focused on energy efficient design. As a result, these facilities are using cogeneration equipment, cleaner fuels, leak detection and maintenance programs, and distinct manufacturing processes that enable us to have new and expanded facilities with a lower carbon footprint.

These are precisely the actions we need to as we step forward towards a low carbon economy.

Fortunately for all of us, the court strongly reaffirmed the application of the PSD program to greenhouse gases. The court decision states that:

Congress made perfectly clear that the PSD program was meant to protect against precisely the types of harms caused by greenhouse gases.

The court decision continues:

 [I]t is crystal clear that PSD permittees must install BACT [best available control technology] for greenhouse gases.

This week’s decision means that our country’s largest sources of greenhouse gas pollution will use the best available means for limiting their carbon emissions. At the same time, it means we can protect small sources of pollution from regulation, and ensure that state and local permitting authorities face a manageable work load.

EPA’s now-approved rules allow us to take action to protect our country from the harms caused by climate-disrupting pollution.

It’s one more way that this week’s court decision is a win for all of us.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy / Comments are closed

A Great Day for Science Too: More on the Court Decision Affirming Historic Climate Protections

On good days, the facts prevail — and Tuesday was one of those very good days.

As Fred wrote, on Tuesday the U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C. issued a unanimous, historic decision upholding EPA’s actions to reduce climate pollution.

In our press release, Fred called it a good day for the “thin layer of atmosphere that sustains life on Earth.”

He’s right of course. But our planet wasn’t the only big winner. It was also a great day for science.

The court roundly rejected challenges to EPA’s science-based finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare (commonly called the Endangerment Finding).

In the process, the court reaffirmed the importance of having rigorous, independent science as the bedrock of efforts to protect our health and environment.

The court’s eloquent statement speaks for itself:    

EPA simply did here what it and other decision-makers often must do to make a science-based judgment:  it sought out and revised existing scientific evidence to determine whether a particular finding was warranted.  It makes no difference that much of the scientific evidence in large part consisted of “syntheses” of individual studies and research.  . . .  This is how science works.  EPA is not required to re-prove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question.

(That’s from page 27 of the ruling. I added the emphasis.)

The court dismissed the challenges to the Endangerment Finding as without “merit”, noting that EPA relied upon an “ocean of evidence” including 18,000 peer-reviewed studies. (You can find those quotes on pages 26, 34 and 38 of the decision.)  

In dismissing this challenge the court acted in concert with our long history of relying on science-based evidence — not only to shape our health and environmental protections, but as the foundation of American innovation and ingenuity. 

EPA’s Endangerment Finding is based on an extensive review of climate change research, including assessments of climate research prepared by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, the United States Global Change Research Program, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The creation of these assessment reports involved thousands of scientists, reviewing thousands of articles from peer-reviewed research journals.

This massive body of research documents the effects that rising atmospheric concentrations of heat-trapping emissions are having on our climate. It also documents the harm that climate impacts cause to human health and welfare. 

Affirming EPA’s reliance on state-of-the-art climate science, the court discussed the substantial evidence supporting EPA’s Endangerment Finding on page 30 of the decision:

To recap, EPA had before it substantial record evidence that anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases “very likely” caused warming of the climate over the last several decades. . .  Relying again upon substantial scientific evidence, EPA determined that anthropogenically induced climate change threatens both public health and public welfare.  It found that extreme weather events, changes in air quality, increases in food- and water-borne pathogens, and increases in temperatures are likely to have adverse health effects … The record also supports EPA’s conclusion that climate change endangers human welfare by creating risk to food production and agriculture, forestry, energy, infrastructure, ecosystems, and wildlife. 

The call from scientists worldwide urging swift action to curb climate-destabilizing emissions has been heard. 

EPA’s efforts to fulfill its statutory responsibility to protect human health and the environment from dangerous pollution have been resoundingly affirmed.   

It is a good day to be a scientist, and an American.

(You can read more about the court cases on our website and in my colleague Megan Ceronsky’s earlier blog on the subject. And stay tuned for more analysis of the historic decisions.)

Posted in Basic Science of Global Warming, Clean Air Act, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy, Science, What Others are Saying / Read 1 Response

A Great Day for Clean Air: Court Upholds EPA Actions to Reduce Climate Pollution

Today is a great day for climate progress in America.

Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a unanimous, strong and clear opinion affirming the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) historic measures to reduce harmful climate pollution. 

The court’s opinion held that EPA’s climate protections are firmly rooted in science and the law, and grounded in more than 18,000 peer-reviewed scientific publications.  

The court didn’t mince words. The decision says:

EPA’s interpretation of the governing CAA provisions is unambiguously correct.

Even sharper was this part of the decision, in which the court noted that EPA properly relied on comprehensive scientific assessments by authorities such as the National Academies of Science and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: 

This is how science works. EPA is not required to re-prove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question.

(Read more on EDF’s website, in our press release and our highlights page, and in our Texas Clean Air Matters blog)

But even in the wake of a compelling court opinion, some continue to focus on the politics of delay, deny and obstruct.  

Responding to the court’s decision, a representative of the National Association of Manufacturers indicated today that it will continue to invest in lawyers and lobbyists to block clean air progress, telling AP:

[w]e will be considering all of our legal options when it comes to halting these devastating regulations.

Fortunately, there are many more who are investing in America’s future. Business leaders, numerous states, and policy makers are working together to reduce harmful carbon pollution. 

America’s automakers defended EPA’s common sense measures to make our cars more efficient, which will save families’ hard-earned money at the gas pump, help break our addiction to imported oil, and reduce climate pollution.

In filings in federal court, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers have characterized these important standards as:

valid, mandated by law, and non-controversial.

Similarly, a dozen states – California, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington – have intervened in defense of EPA’s clean car standards. 

And small business voices spoke out today in support of EPA’s clean air measures, saying these measures:

are strongly supported by small business owners because they will boost their bottom lines and help secure our nation’s position in the emerging clean energy economy. 

The court’s decision today reaffirms that a strong, diverse set of voices stand ready to work together, building from the bedrock foundation of this historic decision to reduce climate pollution and build a stronger America.

Our EDF experts are poring through all 82 pages of the decision. Stay tuned for more in-depth analysis about what it means, and where we go next.

But for right now, we should all take a moment to celebrate this great news.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy, Science, What Others are Saying / Comments are closed

Why It Matters: the Senate Vote on a Toxic Resolution

When the Senate voted down  S.J Res. 37 by a margin of 53 to 46 yesterday, we at EDF cheered.

The measure would have nixed the new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards that were just finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Those new standards are one of the most important steps EPA has ever taken to clean up our air and protect public health.

EDF’s own Fred Krupp summed up the bipartisan vote this way:

[They] voted against S. J. Res 37. That means they voted for cleaner, healthier, safer air for all Americans. They voted to let EPA do its job, and reduce the mercury and other toxic pollution emitted from power plants into the air we breathe. They voted to save up to 11,000 lives each year, to help prevent neurological damage in babies, and to make it safer to eat fish caught in American waters.

But there’s a lot more to say about why this vote was so critical – and why these standards are so important.

First, let’s look at the standards themselves.  

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards limit the amount of mercury, arsenic, acid gases, and other noxious toxins that can be emitted by power plants.

The kinds of pollution covered by the standards are all extremely hazardous to human health. Mercury, for instance, impairs brain and neurological development in babies – including those exposed before birth.

The main way people are exposed to mercury is through eating contaminated fish. All 50 states have mercury fish consumption advisories, meaning that mercury has gotten into waterbodies like lakes and ponds and made the fish in those waters potentially unsafe for humans to eat.

That’s why pregnant women are warned about eating certain kinds of fish. But still, one in ten American women of child-bearing age have potentially dangerous levels of mercury in their bloodstream, and about 400,000 babies are born here every year who were exposed to unsafe levels of mercury in the womb. 

The power sector is the largest source of many toxic emissions, including mercury. Coal-fired power plants emit 50% of all the mercury pollution in our air, as well as 77% of all acid gases, and 62% of all arsenic.

Other sectors have long since reduced emissions of toxic pollutants like mercury. Cost-effective (and American made) pollution-control measures, like scrubbers, are available for power plants too.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards have been in the works for 20 years. Once they’re finally in effect, the standards will ensure that approximately 90% of the mercury in coal burned by power plants is not emitted to our air.

The standards will also:

  • Prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths—every year
  • Prevent 130,000 childhood asthma attacks every year
  • Prevent 5,700 hospital visits every year
  • Prevent thousands of heart attacks every year
  • Prevent thousands of bronchitis cases every year

But S.J. Res 37 would not only have nixed the new standards, it would also have prevented EPA from issuing a rule that is “substantially the same” in the future.

Fred called it a “scorched earth” policy.

It was certainly drastic — a resolution that would jeopardize EPA’s ability to ever protect Americans from the mercury and other toxic air pollution emitted by power plants.

And it was unnecessary. The main arguments against the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards were not grounded in reality. 

Opponents said the standards would cost too much and would kill jobs. Actually, the benefits of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are expected to outweigh the costs by at least 3 to 1, and as much as 9 to 1.

And the new standards are estimated to create up to 117,000 jobs between now and 2015.

Opponents also claimed the standards would threaten America’s electrical supply. Wrong again.

Independent analyses by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Congressional Research Service confirm that industry can comply with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards while maintaining the reliability of our electric system. And EPA’s compliance framework establishes a clear and orderly process for securing an extended compliance pathway where needed and will allow utilities to make a smooth transition to cleaner generation.

In fact, numerous power companies have already indicated they can comply with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards on time. In a December opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, the leaders of PG&E, Calpine, NextEra, Public Service Enterprise Group, National Grid USA, Exelon, Constellation Energy Group, and Austin Energy explained how they, and many companies, have long prepared for these clean air standards.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards received a monumental level of public support: 

  • More than 800,000 Americans submitted comments to EPA in support of these new life-saving protections.
  • The U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously adopted a resolution supporting the standards, saying that “clean, healthy air and water are fundamental American rights.”
  • Scientists support the standards – including dozens from Ohio universities who sent a letter to their state’s congressional delegation opposing S.J. Res 37.
  • Other organizations publicly supporting the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards include: faith, public health, and clean energy groups; power companies; the NAACP; environmental organizations; and groups representing sportsmen, mothers and fathers, Latinos, small businesses, and consumers.

If S.J. Res 37 had passed, it would have been disastrous for both public health and the environment. Fortunately, a group of 53 Senators from both parties stood up to be counted for clean air yesterday. We should all be grateful to them for their vote.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Economics, Health, Jobs, Policy / Comments are closed